Saturday, 27 July 2013

Bibbulmun Preparation: Food

A small selection of the Back Country Cuisine range.
Organising food for a trek in Australia, before you enter the country, can be problematic. Aussie Quarantine laws restrict certain food stuffs being bought into the country, so you cannot bring in your favourite meals, bought or personally de-hydrated, and you have to do all your shopping when you arrive.


I learnt this, to my cost, when I declared my Expedition Foods freeze dried meals, back in 2010, and had all my meat based items refused, which, for a carnivore like me, took up the bulk of my supplies! Fortunately, I could store them at the airport and retrieve them when I left the country, but that does incur a fee and a lot of hassle. For more on their quarantine laws, go to the Australia Bio Security page

Fear not, though; When I returned to Oz for my third attempt at the Overland Track, a year later, I went searching for a decent freeze dried alternative to my preference in the UK, and I came across the excellent Back Country Cuisine range.

Suppliers of my freeze dried meals
The Overland Track was a mere six days; organising food for the Bibbulmun is not a case of rocking up to the local camping store the day before departure and picking up a few items. I contacted Mountain Designs, in Perth, and negotiated a discount for buying in bulk. Not a huge saving, but every little helps. When I arrive in September, my first order of business will be collecting a total of 45 meals.

I have tried a few brands of freeze dried meals; Expedition Foods, Trek n Eat, Mountain House, Be Well Expedition Foods, but the best I have tasted are from this little New Zealand based company. Such a shame they are not available in the UK.

I certainly won't get bored by the variety I have opted for; Cottage Pie x 2, Bobotie x 4, Spaghetti Bolognese x 2, Roast Chicken x 4, Thai Chicken x 6, Mexican Chicken x 5, Chicken Tikka Masala x 4, Roast Lamb and Veg x 4, Moroccon Lamb x 6, Lamb Fettucine x 4, Nasi Goreng x 4

Each 2 serve pack (who eats 1 serving on a hike?) weighs in at 175 grams, and has a calorific range from 730 to 860.

Other food items can be picked up in most local supermarkets. A good place to get an idea of whether familiar items are available is to look at the Woolworths Online website. This includes Porridge Oats, Cup a soups, dried fruit, nuts, coffee, custard powder etc. It's best to get the bulk of these items in one place, and not rely on the remote track towns. That said, Stove fuel and perishables, such as bread, salami, cheese, can be purchased there.

Shopping completed, I have the logistical task of organising my food. This involves removing all excess packaging and splitting everything into lighter zip-lock bags. I tend to store a days worth of food in one larger bag so it saves me having to search through my rucksack for each item. Finally, I will then place the food into larger parcels for delivery to each track town. Many people post these items to either their accommodation, the local post office, or visitor centre. I have decided to deliver them personally with a 3 day round road trip to Albany. As well as ensuring none of my parcels go missing, it gives me the opportunity to check out the towns, consider my future accommodation options when I eventually walk through, and recce the local supply stores.

So, once perishable items have been bought at each track town, a typical daily food bag on the trail will consist of porridge and a cup of coffee for breakfast, with snacks of a bag of "scroggin" (dried fruit and mixed nuts, with smarties) and a fruit bar or snickers bar. For lunch, a fresh sandwich and fruit on the first day out of town, and for the other days, I'll probably open up a tuna sachet, or chop up some salami and cheese, to have with crackers or flat bread. Once arrived at camp, it'll be a cup of coffee, and for dinner, instant soup in a mug, before a freeze dried meal. Dessert will likely be a sachet of instant custard and dried fruit. Completing the day, I'll have a cup of hot chocolate before bed.

Food options within each track town are no concern to me. Australia has a great culinary reputation and I'll have no problem finding some hearty meals on a zero day!